Precious Metals Investing Guide

By John Otis

July 10, 2021

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So you're wondering about investing in precious metals. Millions of people ponder over the same question but aren't sure which metals to buy, how to buy them, how much of any metal to purchase, why to put PM (precious metal) into a portfolio or retirement fund, and more.

So, there's really a lot more to the question than "How can I invest in precious metals?"

How To Get Started

For people who are new to the niche, which includes silver, gold, palladium, and platinum, the idea of investing in PMs can seem befuddling. The best place to start is learning why so many people hold gold, silver, and other metals in their portfolios and retirement account.

Next, it's essential to arrive at a figure, based on your own budget and lifestyle, about how much of any given metal you should buy.

Equally vital is knowing the mechanics of the process, namely how to make a PM purchase, the pros, and cons of holding these kinds of assets, and how people use PMs to build safe retirement accounts.

There's much to cover, so let's dive in with answering the question of why millions of working adults choose to acquire precious metals in the first place.

Why Buy and How Much?

The two main reasons people buy precious metals are balancing a portfolio in terms of risk and building a comfortable retirement in the form of a gold IRA. The amount they buy varies based on their income, the amount of PMs they want in a portfolio or IRA, the current price of their favorite metal, and a few other factors.

It also depends on your risk tolerance. Some people put 50% or more into precious metals and some advisors recommend only 10% max. There is no right or wrong answer here, since investing comes down to your own personal financial goals, risk tolerance, and other factors.

What Options Do I Have?

There are numerous ways to start investments in precious metals. You can buy bullion (physical metal) from a dealer and store where you wish. The best metal to invest in right now is likely going to be gold and silver. 

Or, as noted below, you can purchase bullion and let a third-party store it for you in an IRS-approved vault. You'd choose this method if you wanted to set up a gold IRA (note that a "gold" IRA can hold any of the precious metals, not just gold).

Other ways to invest in PMs included buying stock in mining companies, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), PM futures and options, or stock in companies whose profits are closely tied to precious metals' value. However, all these ways are indirect methods of investing instead of direct ownership of PMs in the form of bullion that you store in a safe deposit box or IRS-approved vault.

What Are The Advantages?

It's possible to make a very long list of the pros of buying PMs. Here's a short version that includes some points you are aware of and some that are likely entirely new to you:

  • Inflation Hedge: When inflation wreaks havoc with paper assets like cash, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, gold stands strong. And, the worse an inflationary cycle becomes, the better gold looks to other investors, which is why its price typically rises in bad times.
  • No Counter-Party Risk: Because it is the only significant asset that does not show up as a "liability" on someone else's financial statements, there's no counter-party risk. In other words, you're not reliant on someone else doing something, releasing a contract, or making a transaction to assure the value of your gold, silver, or other PMs.
  • Investment Diversification: PMs are an ideal way to diversify an investment portfolio or a retirement account. Many people choose to put between 10 and 40 percent of their long-term retirement funds into precious metals. 
  • Simplicity:  No other asset is as simple to buy as gold and other PMs. Because we're talking about metals, which are basically raw materials taking directly from the earth, there's nothing more to owning them than paying someone and taking possession. 
  • Liquidity: If you own any of the four PMs and decide to sell them, it won't take but a minute to do so. That's because the global market for PMs is active and operates 24/7. The same can't be said for stocks, options, bonds, valuable works of art, diamonds, or anything else. Except for cash, PMs offer more liquidity than any other asset class.
  • Portability:  Unless you're wealthy, it's not a problem to move your PMs from one location to another and do so without anyone knowing. All the PMs are highly portable.
  • Privacy: Some investors prize gold for its privacy factor. In most cases, you can buy gold bullion from a coin dealer and pay cash for it. There's no record of the transaction, and the sale is anonymous. 
  • It's Real Money: For more than 100 years, every fiat currency, even the dollar, has devalued in comparison to gold. People often forget the simple fact that gold is money. The same is true for silver, palladium, and platinum. Just look at how many nations used, and still use, gold or silver or both as a form of legal-tender money. 

What Are The Drawbacks?

No investment class is perfect. That's what makes financial planning so exciting and challenging. Every individual's situation is unique, which means we all have our own ideal portfolio based on what we want overall and what we can afford. Here are some downsides to owning precious metals.

  • Prices Are Unpredictable: Though PM prices tend to rise when stocks go down, that's not always the case. Trying to predict the price of any PM is as tricky as trying to guess whether the price of a company's stock will rise or not.
  • Storage: Storage of bullion (physical metals) can be costly and challenging. Unfortunately, some people choose to store gold and other PMs in their homes, which are highly susceptible to loss by theft, fire, flood, and earthquake. 
  • No Passivity: Unlike some other assets, precious metals do not deliver any kind of passive income in the form of dividends or interest. 
  • Taxes: Unless you protect your gold and silver from the taxman by putting it into a gold IRA, you'll have to pay tax every year on any amount of appreciation. That's because the taxing authorities classify PMs as capital assets. 
  • Premiums: You can minimize the premium you pay on PM purchases, but you'll almost always have to pay some amount above the spot price. The remedy for this disadvantage is to use a top-level seller and to buy in large quantities.

Retirement Investments In Precious Metals

Are you thinking of retiring early, or are you already very close to retirement age? If so, it's essential to consider the advantages of precious metals IRAs, also known as "gold" IRAs (even though you can put any PM into them, including or not including gold).

Precious metals IRAs are an excellent financial solution for those who want to either diversify their retirement accounts with metals or wish to go all-in and build an IRA exclusively composed of gold, silver, platinum, or palladium (or any combination thereof).

An IRA, simply put, is a special kind of savings account that was written into law in 1974. It allows people to set aside money, either before or after-tax, into an account whose earnings (in the form of interest or appreciation) are NOT taxed until the account is opened after the person retires and begins to withdraw the funds. At that time, you'll pay tax on the funds. But, chances are, you'll be in a much lower tax bracket at that time, which is why millions of people set up IRAs.

Roth IRA's

A variation, the Roth IRA, allows you to put after-tax money into the account. When you open a Roth after you retire, you pay NO tax on any of the proceeds. You can set up an IRA account through a banker or broker in just a few minutes.

There are contribution limits each year, with $6,000 the standard limit. If you're over 50, you can contribute $7,000 per person per year. Married couples, thus, can contribute twice as much.

Precious Metal IRA's

There's another form of retirement account called a "gold IRA." As noted, you can put any PM into it. To set up a gold IRA, technically called "precious metals IRAs," you need to work with a licensed custodian who will oversee the account for you. Plus, you'll need to find someone to sell you the metals, as well as an IRS-approved storage facility. You can't store the PMs yourself if you opt for a gold IRA.

However, the process of setting up a gold IRA is relatively simple if you work with a metals dealer who is closely connected with a licensed custodian and an approved storage facility. You can also convert a 401k plan or traditional IRA directly into a precious metals IRA whenever you want. Many people do so to put all or part of their retirement capital into precious metals.

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Putting It All Together

It's pretty evident that people seek out precious metals for various reasons, but mainly because their value tends to hold steady when the rest of the economy is in a slump or a state of volatile chaos.

Serious-minded adults who want to provide for a secure future often buy gold, silver, platinum, and palladium as a hedge against inflation, a store of value, or a way to protect themselves in the event of a serious economic meltdown.

It's telling that whenever the stock market tanks or there's a global threat like the COVID pandemic, the price of PMs typically rises. For centuries, human beings have sought out gold and silver, in particular, as a way to store their wealth and provide for their later years.

Among assets that investors can choose from, precious metals are unique. Holding them in an IRA can be one of the most effective ways in the modern era to build a comfortable retirement in the face of mounting societal tension and a volatile stock market.

John Otis

About the author - John Otis

In the modern age of reckless government spending and central bank money printing, my sole objective is to help others protect their savings, retirement, livelihoods, and purchasing power from currency devaluation. Otis Gold has been featured in Financial Times, Yahoo Finance, Kitco News, Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, and more. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below. Welcome!

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